Building and facilitating system capability to create healthy environments in East Sussex and Southampton: a qualitative process evaluation 

Evaluation Completed February 2024

Briefing Paper for Local Authorities

Briefing paper for local authorities Healthy_environments_LA_briefing_final_(1)



What does the research mean for Local Authorities?

The findings will help local authorities understand the factors that help or hinder change and the added value of specialist posts, which longer term will result in environments that improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities

What does the evaluation research mean for the Public?

The importance of place for health is increasingly recognised in public health research and practice, including the ways in which the built design of neighbourhoods and the natural environment can impact mental and physical health. It is hoped that this evaluation will provide Local Authorities with knowledge that will result in environments that improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities in the longer term

How are the public involved in the project?

The PHIRST LiLaC public involvement panel has provided advice on the design of this research. We are currently reviewing options for public involvement during the research which may include involving members of the public with knowledge of and interests in local authority planning systems to support this work. We also have extensive connections with the third sector and community groups across England so we will seek advice about local groups to connect with in these localities

Lay Summary of Research

The study aims are to identify any changes in knowledge, skills and ways of working that support efforts to promote healthy environments in local authority settings that can be linked in whole or in part to the investment in specialist dedicated posts. It also aims to understand the ways in which these changes come about and to assess any early impact these changes have on policy and practice.  Through interviews with key stakeholders, local workshops and diaries completed by the ‘healthy places’ officers, the research team will identify the processes and activities initiated by the new roles and assess the extent to which these lead to changes in local knowledge, working practices and policies.    

Specifically, the research questions guiding the evaluation are:  

  1. What are the characteristics of the local system(s) into which the dedicated specialists 'Health Places' posts are introduced?  
  1. What actions are instigated as a result of the presence of dedicated ‘Healthy Places’ postholders?  
  1. Does this lead to:  
  • changes in local capabilities and capacity for healthy place-making (e.g., behaviours, awareness, knowledge, commitment) within the local authorities  
  • new ways of working and relationships between stakeholders and departments (e.g., planning and public health) or with external stakeholders?  
  1. To what extent have health promoting environments become embedded within policy and practice? To what extent is there greater consideration of health and health equity in local plans?​   
  1. What are the processes that encourage these developments? How do actions within, and characteristics of, the system amplify and dampen change processes?  
  1. What is the learning for future workforce development? 

Local Authority/Partner(s) 

East Sussex County Council (ESCC)  and Southampton County Council (SCC)

PHIRST LiLaC Research Team

Prof Benjamin Barr, Prof Bruce Hollingsworth, Prof David Taylor-Robinson, Dr Emma Coombes, Dr Emma Halliday, Dr Joy Spiliopoulos, Prof Iain Buchan, Ms Irrum Durrani, Ms Jacqui Cannon, Prof Jennie Popay, Prof Karen Broadhurst, Prof Matthew Ashton, Dr Michelle Collins, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Prof Sarah Rogers, Mr Tim Wilson

*All PHIRST LiLaC members input into every project